The effect of sex and age on ex vivo cardiac electrophysiology: insight from a guinea pig model

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



American journal of physiology. Heart and circulatory physiology








age dependent; cardiac electrophysiology; electrocardiogram; optical mapping; sex dependent


Highlighting the importance of sex as a biological variable, we recently reported sex differences in guinea pig in vivo electrocardiogram (ECG) measurements. However, substantial inconsistencies exist in this animal model, with conflicting reports of sex-specific differences in cardiac electrophysiology observed in vivo and in vitro. Herein, we evaluated whether sexual dimorphism persists in ex vivo preparations, using an isolated intact heart preparation. Pseudo-ECG recordings were collected in conjunction with dual optical mapping of transmembrane voltage and intracellular calcium from Langendorff-perfused hearts. In contrast to our in vivo results, we did not observe sex-specific differences in ECG parameters collected from isolated hearts. Furthermore, we observed significant age-specific differences in action potential duration (APD) and Ca transient duration (CaD) during both normal sinus rhythm (NSR) and in response to dynamic pacing but only a modest sex-specific difference in CaD. Similarly, the alternans fluctuation coefficient, conduction velocity during sinus rhythm or in response to pacing, and electrophysiology parameters (atrioventricular nodal effective refractory period, Wenckebach cycle length) were comparable between males and females. Results of our study suggest that the observed sex-specific differences in in vivo ECG parameters from guinea pigs are diminished in ex vivo isolated heart preparations, although age-specific patterns are prevalent. To assess sex as a biological variable in cardiac electrophysiology, a comprehensive approach may be necessary using both in vitro measurements from cardiomyocyte or intact heart preparations with secondary follow-up in vivo studies. We evaluated whether the guinea pig heart has intrinsic sex-specific differences in cardiac electrophysiology. Although we observed sex-specific differences in in vivo ECGs, these differences did not persist ex vivo. Using a whole heart model, we observed similar APD, CaD, conduction velocity, and alternans susceptibility in males and females. We conclude that sex-specific differences in guinea pig cardiac electrophysiology are likely influenced by the in vivo environment and less dependent on the intrinsic electrical properties of the heart.